Last night, I went to see A Catered Affair at the Thomas Kerr Theatre on Broadway. This was a fluke: one of the board members where I work called and said she had spare tickets for that evening, so I was off on the train to the city a few hours later.
Tom Wopat was a featured performer in this particular show, a fact that made me suddenly nervous. I mean, I was going to be sitting in the 6th row after all– it was going to practically be just him and me! After all these years!
My sister, Ann, has always had claim on Tom. I was was a Schneider girl. But John and I haven’t seen each other since he stopped in Kansas City to perform “Will Rogers Follies” at the Starlight. That’s eight years gone now– I think it might be over between us now. Am I allowed to move onto a theoretical brother?
There’s something about these men, my first loves. They are as varied as their 1970s and 1980s TV roles: Hardy Boy Parker Stevenson, Riptide‘s brunette Joe Penny, Tales of The Gold Monkey pilot Stephen Collins, KITT’s sidekick Michael Knight, played by the legendary David Hasselhoff. And, of course, the grinning, sinning, always-winning Duke Boys.
And while Wopat is no Hasselhoff in his cult stature, he’s still got a following for sure. At Wopat.com, you can catch up on the actor’s stage life– Chicago, Glengarry Glen Ross, 42nd Street, Annie Get Your Gun— Wopat has been singing and dancing his way up and down Broadway since the celluloid version of himself hit syndication.
Making the Leap
Actors gotta be fluid creatures– be able to take on a persona, squeeze it dry, then leave it behind. Not every actor is made of that ilk (see: David Caruso). But what Wopat has got is that everyman persona, a blank canvas of manhood, rough and soft in turns.
In A Catered Affair, he slid into the sullen, exhausted husband-provider as if it were his favorite pair of well-fitted Levi’s. It hurt to watch him, but it hurt the way it should; Tom Hurley was living on that stage, while Wopat the TV icon receded.
It’s a natural thing, a lovely thing–watching a man make something look so easy. Reminded me of a certain pair of brothers, so charming, who always managed to escape from the law, who always managed to get across the state line just in time… who could always coax General Lee to leap across some insurmountable obstacle– and land laughing.